It goes without saying that pressure is an inevitable part of a rewarding career. We often associate pressure with stress and anxiety, yet we also know that pressure is a key ingredient of success and high performance.
The Yerkes-Dodson law suggests that just the right amount of pressure is needed to reach our peak performance. So, in an ever-changing business landscape of high stakes and big expectations, how can we use pressure to our advantage as opposed to suffering the adverse effects? And just as important, how do we handle pressure in a way to help us get “in the zone” and do our best work?
It has always intrigued me to discover how my clients reach the top of their game; to discover what lights them up, drives their motivation to reach success under the most challenging of circumstances. However, it’s not just the business world where we can find out how to handle pressure and reach beyond our limits of fear and self-doubt.
Judd Wild is a leading Australian Stuntman whose career has been built on riding the wave of intense, unabated pressure. In Part One, Judd delivered three strategies for how he takes control and reaches peak performance under pressure.
Here Judd reveals three further strategies:
Reframing and visualisation
“It’s important to have a healthy respect for the fear, but just as important to then focus on the successful outcome. Reframing the way I see the situation has a huge impact on changing my mindset,” Judd says.
“You visualise yourself performing the action to perfection and you keep getting that synced in your head - the form of the stunt and how it is meant to happen; the way you’ve practiced. It gives you more confidence. As Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”
Overthinking and falling into the “analysis to paralysis” state can hinder our ability to achieve optimum performance. Being able to focus on accomplishing the task at hand is vital to success.
Research has shown that telling ourselves “don’t fail” actually increased our chances of failure as our brains focus on the very thing that we are trying to avoid.
Many great performers practice visualisation techniques to prepare for that big moment. A Stuntman may visualise himself landing safely from a high fall through the window. You might prepare for a presentation by visualising yourself delivering your introduction clearly and powerfully or answering questions in a confident manner. Seeing yourself perform well can give you the confidence and perception of control you need to deliver in reality.
Hone your strengths
“Debriefing on the event is a key element. We will talk about how the stunt went and if it was seamless. Even if it was a success, we discuss how we can do it better next time. It’s about continually striving to lift the bar, to not only make it look better visually but to make it connect viscerally. We want to make it safer, improve kinaesthetic memory and our overall awareness. There are always ways to improve and reflect on how you can develop,” Judd says.
Even though Judd has reached an elite skill level, he continues to master his craft. He didn’t stop practising just because he was good at it. While we often think that improving our performance means working on our weaknesses, honing our strengths can build the confidence we need to excel in a pressurised situation.
Celebrating the wins
“It’s important to congratulate yourself on a job well done and experience the satisfaction of your accomplishment. It intuitively tells your body: “You did a good job, you get a reward”. It helps to create a positive flow of energy and subconsciously programs your body to strive towards doing good things,” Judd says. “Use positive reinforcement.”
“We are often our harshest critics, repeatedly putting ourselves under pressure before each performance. A mentor taught me a long time ago that if you were as hard on your friends as you are on yourself, then you wouldn’t have any friends”, Judd jokes. “We care about how well we perform and what this means about us.”
“So the last thing we do in our work routine should be to congratulate ourselves on a job well done. Celebrate the win, treat yourself. Do whatever it is that makes you feel good. It doesn’t have to be in front of people, but later on, just appreciate the efforts you’ve exerted in reaching that accomplishment.”
And Judd has a powerful point: When we can be truly present at the finish line and feel the success, we have more faith and feel better prepared to take on similar challenges in the future.
Based on my years in recruiting and coaching professionals from a range of industries, I’m convinced that these strategies can be learned, and apply equally well to any domain, certainly including business.
May we all jump across the cliffs of our careers with focus, wild confidence, and grace under fire!